First Enlistment, War for Profit Part One". I haven't read this book myself, but Jed was kind enough to agree to guest blog about his book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Jed, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?
Jed: "First Enlistment: War for Profit Part One" is the first novel of the War for Profit Trilogy. The main character, Galen, has just graduated from a military academy. He begins his military career by enlisting in a professional mercenary armored brigade along with his two friends, Tad and Spike. Set a couple thousand years from now, professional mercenary units range in size from teams of four to entire divisions of fifteen thousand and offer their services, for the right price, to employers. Galen has enlisted in a mercenary armored brigade to seek his fortune and make his mother proud.
Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, what do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?
Jed: The primary theme is military service. Although I’ve chosen to create a future setting for the action, the challenges of professional military service, the experience of fighting battles and wars, has changed little for the individual soldier, whether they poke one another with pointy sticks or vaporize one another with particle cannons.
Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?
Jed: After having been asked, “What’s it like?” one time too may, I decided to write a book about military service. Of course it is a work of fiction, of science fiction, to avoid giving away any state secrets or divulging too much about current weapons capability or operationally sensitive information. But still, I give a clear sense of what it was like for me. But keep in mind, as with any experience, no two people experience it exactly the same way. As a fan of David Drake’s "Hammer’s Slammers" novels and short stories, I do appreciate his stories and the sense of ‘being there’ that he gives. And it’s close, so very close, to my own experience. I also enjoyed the entire line of Mechwarrior novels, as well as Harold Coyle’s Team Yankee novel. But my greatest inspiration for my novel was my own experience, 24 years in the US Army Field Artillery.
Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?
Jed: Well, I could say many fans of "Hammer’s Slammers" would like "First Enlistment". But some won’t. Readers of Military Science Fiction are very diverse and have very specific taste. My experience in the military was from a very unique perspective, my own perspective, and won’t resonate well with some readers. Which is fine, I understand that. I can say that if they like the first chapter they will enjoy the rest of it.
Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?
Jed: I’ve published a trilogy and "First Enlistment" is the first part. However, all thee novels do stand alone as separate stories. They do not end with cliff hangers. I have also released the entire trilogy in a single volume for readers who enjoy longer works. I have also published my short story collection, "River Rats and Other Stories", chosen from literary material I wrote for professional writing workshops and classes. What I’m working on now is a novella about a disgruntled Staff Sergeant left behind by his artillery unit at the end of large-scale combat operations to be a casualty replacement. So far I’m having a lot of fun with that story, set about two months into the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?
Jed: My novel is available as an eBook on Amazon. I’m also on Facebook. And I have a Hubpages blog where I post articles, where readers can leave comments.
Ana: Thank you, Jed. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?
Jed: Yes. Enjoy the sample.
War for Profit Part One
The Jasmine Panzer Brigade:
“When you care enough to send the very best…”
Halfway between the center of the Milky Way galaxy and its outer edge was the Prussia star system, and on its fourth planet, Ostreich, was its capital city of Ostwind. The city was home to the Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission, housed in the largest building on the planet. Standing four hundred meters tall and a hundred meters square at its base, the titanium alloy-framed and transparent-armor-covered building was filled to capacity with the agents and associates and staff that managed the planet’s largest industry: Mercenaries. Nine centuries before, Ostreich was little more than an operational base for space pirates. As more planets became inhabited, Ostreich grew to be the economic and professional center of the Galaxy’s mercenary industry. Above the building’s main entrance doors, in bronze letters three meters high, were the words “LEAVE WAR TO PROFESSIONALS.”
Galen would be a mercenary, as soon as he signed his first contract. He wanted to be successful enough to make his mother proud. She raised him and paid his way through the Ostwind Military Academy as she worked as a barmaid at the warrior base on Ostreich. Galen didn’t know his deceased father, but knew he had been a mercenary in the Foreign Corps; that’s why Galen was seven feet tall. His mother, she raised Galen to be a mighty and successful warrior. Galen had just graduated from the Ostwind Military Academy Armor School, and it was time for him to do his part.
Galen sat at the bench on the sidewalk, hunched over, staring at his size fourteen combat boots and rubbed his large hands over his close-cropped brown hair. The mild headache was a reminder of last night’s graduation party. He stood to his full height, stretched, buttoned his grey full-length wool coat, stuffed his hands into his pockets--he could do that now, outside the Academy--and started walking toward the largest building in the city. It was where he would meet two of his academy classmates, to join the same unit with them.
Galen stopped fifty meters away from the steps of the building and scanned the three dozen or so groups of job-seeking warriors. When he picked out his two friends, he stood watching them for a minute. Tad was almost two meters tall, of average build but not to be ignored. His scalp showed through his close-cropped academy haircut and added a slight touch of pink to his bright orange hair. He wore a rescue-yellow windbreaker and green-blue plaid parachute pants and gestured vigorously as he spoke to Spike.
Spike seemed to be leaning on something invisible, standing in his knee-high leather boots, dark blue pants tucked into them, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his black leather waist-length jacket. His conservative haircut was probably the longest allowed by the academy, and his hair’s blackness was made even darker by styling spray. With his thick moustache, the short and stocky Spike resembled an ancient fighter pilot.
Galen walked up to them and said, “Spike, Tad, how’s it going? Find us a job yet?”
“Sure!” said Tad, “as soon as the agent bothers to show up to work. We’ve been standing here through lunch, haven’t seen him yet. He’s supposed to poke his face out that door and wave us in, any time now. I’m tired of waiting. I want some action. I can’t stand all this waiting around!”
“Just cool it,” said Spike, “You know that being a soldier means doing a lot of waiting, standing around. I’ve developed the skill of waiting to a fine art. I can wait as long as necessary for the right opportunity.”
“Right,” said Galen, “Not many units would agree to take three green academy grads together, so let’s play the waiting game. We should be grateful they even had us wait on them.”
Tad squirmed inside his clothes and said, “Yeah I know, but who ever heard of the Jasmine Panzer Brigade?”
“We have. The academy wouldn’t have listed them in our employment prospectus if they weren’t any good,” said Spike.
“Hey, there’s that old man! He’s waving to us, wants us to come in!” said Tad.
The three friends climbed the rest of the steps and entered the hiring hall through the door held open by the agent. He led them halfway down the hall, to an interior stairwell down three flights of steps and into a small, windowless office. The three warriors had to stand because there was only a desk, a computer terminal and a chair behind it. The portly old man, wearing a black business smock and soft-soled dress shoes, sank into the chair and pressed a key on the computer. As soon as a barely perceptible, but somewhat irritating, high-pitched noise filled the room he stood and extended a hand and a warm smile to the three friends.
“Glad you’re all here, I need all three of you.”
“Glad to be here,” said Galen. He had been drafted by Spike and Tad to do most of the talking.
“I’m Mister Burwell, your Designated Agent to hire personnel for Colonel Theil’s Panzer Brigade. Look at the plaques, degrees and certificates on the wall behind me. I’m trained at it and I’m good at it. I’m fully certified to take care of your employment needs as well as the needs of the units I represent. Yes, I do represent more than one unit, but that works to our advantage. If I see a better deal for you, I can let you know about it. So let’s talk. What kind of work do you young gentlemen want?”
“More than one unit? I mean, I thought…”
“Yes, it’s no problem at all.” A broad smile, arms open wide as he stood, “I’m an agent, your agent. The better the deal you get, the more money I make. The longer you live, the more money I make. Sure, I’m on retainer to recruit for the Panzers, and they do want three new recruits right now, but I’m flexible.”
Galen thought a moment too long before replying. Tad jumped right in and asked, “So what else, what’s better, I mean, what else have you got?”
Spike grabbed Tad by the arm and pulled him back. Tad remembered his promise to keep his mouth shut and stepped back to lean against the wall with Spike.
Galen nodded at Burwell, so he replied to Tad’s question. “Training cadre on a new settlement on the periphery. You’re green here but you’d be drill instructors out there. It’s a two year contract, starting as a Corporal with unlimited advancement potential. You’d provide basic training for their militia volunteers. Finish that assignment as a Sergeant or higher, and you’ll have a handy entry on your resume.”
“Please, let’s skip anything that doesn’t include tanks,” said Galen.
“Okay, you three at a spaceport, maneuvering tanks around from cargo ships to storage bays. It’s a one year assignment with a great chance to get hands-on experience with all sorts of different fighting vehicles.”
“Here’s another chance. Members of the police force on Kalidasa. Patrol the military factories to prevent industrial espionage, and if the planet is attacked, you jump into a tank and defend it.”
“Security guards? That’s no job for academy graduates; that’s where academy dropouts end up!”
Burwell winced at the criticism, “Listen, hotshot, I was quite the soldier myself for a while. So when I ask myself how I would do it, if I had it all to do over again, this is it. I’m trying to get you to ease into the system, get a feel for the mercenary business. Get you feet wet before you plunge in. Spend a year or two of your youth being young, find a woman, start a family before you throw your fortunes to the stars. Go into it with your head on straight and with someone to come home to.”
“Never mind that, mister. Tell us about the Panzers.”
Burwell waited a full minute before speaking. He hit a few keys on the computer, it spat out three sheets of auto-copy paper, and he handed a sheet to each of them.
“That’s the standard contract, no flexibility for you guys. You sign away the next five years of your life, total loyalty to the Jasmine Panzer Brigade. Because of your status as academy graduates, you will enlist at the grade of Sergeant, but if you are involved in disciplinary action your rank could go as low as nothing and you could spend your whole enlistment cleaning toilets. Good luck, gentlemen.”
Burwell handed them boarding passes to a ship leaving in less than three hours. “Now sign those pieces of trash, give me back the original and last copy, and get out of my office.”
Spike, Tad and Galen pressed their contracts against the wall and shared an ink stick to sign them. Just as they were leaving Mr. Burwell said, “When you look back on this day, and you will, remember that I gave you some good advice and you ignored it. Remember that!”
The three young mercenaries scurried down the hallway, went up the steps two and three at a time, strode out of the office building and walked briskly to the spaceport. They were now officially members of a recognized and active mercenary unit, eager to get to their first duty station.
They entered the spaceport, drawing icy and suspicious stares from the security guards. They seemed lost and had no luggage: obviously up to no good.
“So where’s our gate?” asked Tad.
“Section zulu one niner foxtrot.”
“On this map somewhere. Hey, where’d Spike go?”
“Over here,” called Spike. “We got to get on the pedestrian skywalk, hit this shuttle here,” he indicated an obscure part of the spaceport map, “then walk to the edge of the tarmac, enter this building, check in on the…well, not the first floor… then board our drop boat.”
“Simple. We’ll follow you,” said Galen.
They walked about half a mile, the bustle of the main terminal dissipating into lonely walkways as they went. Soon they came to the automated monorail shuttle, dumped a coin into it and rode it to their destination.
“Hurry guys, we only got twenty five minutes left,” said Galen.
“I’m with you, brother,” said Tad.
“Don’t worry, we’ll make it,” said Spike. They found their terminal and gate and dropped their boarding passes on the counter for a bored attendant to examine.
“You got any luggage?” asked the thin man in his mid-thirties.
“No,” said Galen, unable to take his eyes off the man’s bald spot.
“Unusual. Oh well, your liftoff has been delayed about three hours.”
“So what do we do now?” asked Tad.
“Go up two levels to the lounge, and keep a close eye on the monitor, to be sure you don’t miss your liftoff,” said the attendant, as though the question were directed at him.
They took his advice. The lounge looked worn and overused, and there were no other customers. The smell of stale booze and long-dissipated smoke seemed to be a decade old, and probably was. The three mercenaries chose the corner booth nearest the bar.
“Three ales, barkeep,” ordered Galen,
“With you in a minute.” True to his word, the barkeep took at least a full minute to bring the drinks. “So, you young guns heading out into the big universe today?”
“Yeah,” said Tad.
The young men looked at one another, then at their boarding passes. Galen dug out his contract, scanned it for the name of some place, any place. The three young soldiers honestly didn’t know where they were going. After a long pause the barkeep broke the tension, “Oh, a classified, secret destination. I understand.”
They drank their first ales in silence, brooding over their lack of knowledge about their future. Finally, when the barkeep returned with another round of ale Tad asked him, “You know anything about the Panzer Brigade commanded by Colonel Theil?”
“The Jasmine Panzers. Yes, I heard of them.”
“Well, where are they?”
“Mandarin Confederation space. If you’re lucky you’ll get stationed on Cyan. Beautiful world. Or maybe Ngsien. That rock is a great big ball of ore orbiting the fourth planet of the Drago star system.”
“We didn’t say we were going to the Jasmine Panzers,” said Galen, trying to preserve some semblance of operations security.
“No, I guess you didn’t.”
They left twelve empty bottles and a reasonable tip when they went back down to their boarding gate. The balding attendant was talking with a loadmaster and a ship steward. They were welcoming civilian passengers and processing their paperwork when Galen and his two companions arrived.
“Wait over there, gentlemen,” said the steward.
They watched nearly a hundred passengers pass through the boarding gate, and guessed there were about twenty more waiting to board when the loadmaster called, “There any military out there? I’m supposed to pick up three tank jockeys.”
“Right here!” said Galen.
“Come over here.”
They pushed their way through the knot of civilians. The loadmaster gave them a skeptical look and said, “Show me some ID and some orders.”
They reached in their pockets and pulled out credit markers, academy graduate I.D.s and their mercenary contracts. The loadmaster read all the documents carefully and handed them back.
“Okay, get on.”
As they walked down the boarding gantry they heard the loadmaster tell the other waiting passengers, “Sorry folks, my boat’s full. Better luck catching the next one.”
The steward caught up to Galen and his two buddies and told them, “We’re really packing them in this time, what with that other ship breaking down. Anyhow, you three will ride in the upper weapons blister, for two reasons. One, you’re tank jockeys, so that means you know a thing or two about weapons. But we aren’t putting you there to use the damn things, understand that right now. The reason you’re being put there instead of civilians is so that if a weapon gets discharged, we can take legal action against you. You know enough about those weapons to make absolutely sure they don’t get fired. Or damaged. Remember that. Your cabin, gentlemen.”
“Do you think they wouldn’t call us ‘gentlemen’ if we weren’t academy graduates?” said Tad.
“I guess so,” said Spike, strapping himself into the weapons control couch.
Galen said, “That loadmaster, he probably still thinks we’re impostors. Did you see the dirty look he gave us, like we insulted the whole universe by calling ourselves military?”
“No, spacers hate mercenaries. That’s what my uncle told me. He used to work at this spaceport,” said Spike.
“No wonder you found your way around here so well, it runs in your family,” said Tad.
“Talk about family, why your family...”
“Let’s drop it. I’m in no mood to fight,” said Galen. For him, discussions about family and lineage were taboo. But with a comfortably retired mother and a big chunk of money in his own account, his family heritage would be quite respectable. But not until then, not for a while longer.
“So Spike, tell us more about this spacer/mercenary complex,” said Tad.
“Oh, it’s not so hard to figure out. Being in space, weightless or in control of your gravity is kind of comfortable. The only reason they have to come down is to get us. A necessary evil they have to put up with to earn a living. And in space this ship is quite a powerful weapon, but on the ground it’s kind of vulnerable to attack, dependent on ground units for protection. So they resent us for several reasons. Then there are the crews. Now they really don’t like us, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever meet any of them. We shouldn’t, anyway.”
“Attention passengers,” the steward’s voice came over the intercom, “we will be lifting off in thirty seconds. Because of our tight schedule, we will be launching faster than normal and will burn at a rate of three Gs while leaving the planet’s gravity well. Then as we approach the jump point we will decelerate at two Gs. We will, however, give you fifteen minutes of weightlessness between one G burns. I advise you to make the most of those times to prepare for the second leg of the flight. There will be no one or zero G breaks after the turnaround. That will be all.”
“How long does this flight take?"
“About six hours to the turnaround, where we coast for awhile, then maybe four hours as we decelerate to stop at the jump point.” Galen didn’t know, he was only guessing. The primary thrusters fired, gently lifting the drop ship into the air.
“Hey, this ain’t so bad, can hardly feel the extra gravity,” said Tad.
Spike said, “Yeah, you know the deal with them spacers. They just said that to scare us.”